Friday, September 17, 2021

First victim calls reversed death sentence ‘painful’ in Drew Sjodin case

Crookston, Minn. — It’s been 18 years since the kidnapping and murder of Drew Sjodin, and 14 years since Alfonso Rodriguez was sentenced to death for his kidnapping and murder, but a recent ruling by a federal judge upheld the death penalty for the case. reversed and a new sentencing hearing for Rodriguez could take place.

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. hears his bail hearing at Northeast Central District Court in Grand Forks on December 4, 2003. (Dave Wallis/Forum)

Shirley Iverson, who was raped by Rodriguez in 1974, said that the overturned sentence brought back painful memories and felt that a culture of secrecy had allowed her to become a rapist.

Iverson said in an interview that the hard part of being a survivor of a rape or sexual assault is the expanded legal process, adding that research shows it prevents attacks from being reported.

Iverson of Crookston, Minn. said, “I was raped in 1974 and there really were no services for the victims. Now we have the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, which funds victim services, but the court process , the steps that are taken, and the number of levels of appeal it takes to ensure that the accused has rights at trial. Not only in my life, but every life he (Rodriguez) has touched has been affected by those decades. This is what has happened.”

Rodriguez was convicted of kidnapping Sjodin from the Columbia Mall in Grand Forks, ND on No. 22, 2003, and murdering her in Minnesota just outside of Crookston.

Iverson said he had spoken with Sozodin’s mother as news of the death sentence surfaced as well as with acting US Attorney General Nick Chase and Drew Wrigley, the US Attorney General prosecuting the Rodriguez case.

First victim calls reversed death sentence 'painful' in Drew Sjodin case
Drew Sjodin (courtesy photo)

Iverson said, “The thing with Drew’s mother is that it was important for me to tell her that I will do everything I can to be Drew’s voice about the horror of the kidnapping and that Drew is not forgotten. Is.” “I’ve been back in the field several times to testify or assist with Drew’s investigations and I keep trying to wonder if there’s anything I could add to those investigations over the years.”

“Every time I come to the witness stand, either at Drew’s trial or other trials, it is that the validity of my experience, my assault, is questioned, even though he has already been found guilty and Sentenced in my 1974 case, but the validity of this sentence comes within the scope of cross-examination of his defense lawyers.” “It’s a deeply psychological process to go to that witness stand every time and at the moment I’m not sure if I’ll have to go to that stand again, and it’s not a happy moment or anything that I’ve been waiting for. But whatever it takes to make sure Drew gets justice.”

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One thing Iverson has said over and over again is that “everybody needs to report everything.”

“Part of the reason I had to leave town (Crookston) after what happened to me in 1974 was because it was a big mystery about Alfonso’s past behaviors and what he had done in the community,” Iverson continued. “It is only in retrospect that you can see the way from the alleged stealing of underwear from the school locker to kidnapping, stabbing and rape. It is the culture of secrecy regarding sexual harassment that has allowed her to become a rapist.”

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judge’s opinion

In a 232-page opinion issued by Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Ralph Erickson, who presided over Rodriguez’s jury trial and sentencing in the mid-2000s, he said defense counsel during the 2007 sentencing trial was “ineffective. ” Were. Erickson called the testimony of Ramsey County Medical Examiner Michael McGee about the cause of Sjodin’s death as “unreliable, misleading and inaccurate”.

Erikson says that prosecutors had the theories (based on McGee’s testimony) that Rodriguez raped Sjodin, drove her down a ravine, slit her throat, and left her to death in the snow.

Eriksson has said that he believes “the speculative image contributed to the jury’s decision to impose the most severe punishment” and felt that if the jury had heard of Rodriguez’s serious mental illness, he would have been in prison. could be sentenced to life imprisonment.

The US Attorney’s office in North Dakota will look at possible options going forward and may ask the Court of Appeals to review and reverse Ericsson’s decision, trial another sentence and seek the death penalty again. may, or may agree to give Rodriguez life in prison. The parole ruling did not affect the guilty verdict and Rodriguez remains in federal prison.

First victim calls reversed death sentence 'painful' in Drew Sjodin case
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